What is the Harper government’s legacy after eight years in office?

Stephen Harper on election night 2006 (Canadian Press file photo)

Thursday marked the eighth anniversary of the 2006 federal election which saw the Harper Conservatives come into power.

In light of that anniversary, we went to our expert political panel and asked each of them to identify one highlight and one 'low-light' of Stephen Harper's first eight years in office.

Here's what they said:

Warren Kinsella, Sun News analyst and Liberal insider

Highlight: "Harper's apology for the residential schools. He looked, and sounded, truly saddened and ashamed for what happened in those places. It was, and is, his finest moment."

Low-light: "There have been too many. But his decision to eliminate the election subsidy - which led to the next-day formation of a coalition government, and very nearly Harper's demise - was petty and stupid. He looked like a tinpot dictator, and a defeated one at that. He's lucky he survived that little exercise in petulance and pettiness."

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Gerry Nicholls, Political consultant and right-leaning pundit

Highlight: "The Harper government has achieved the noble and worthy goal of giving ivory tower intellectuals, socialist activists and left wing journalists severe apoplectic fits."

Low-light: "The Harper government's first budget revealed it had adopted Liberal-style spending policies; the Duffy scandal revealed it had adopted Liberal-style scandals."

Dan McTeague, former Liberal MP

Highlight: "Formal apology to all members of our First Nations in the House of Commons. Long overdue and all parties showed unmistakable unity in welcoming the regret on behalf of the Gov't of Canada."

Low-light: "Too many to list. Everything from shamelessly claiming they insulated Canada from the global economic downturn, caused by the very bank deregulation Harper clamored for in Opposition in 2003, and which Canada avoided thanks to Chretien/Martin's prudent fiscal management which Harper inherited. Can't help but mention the disgraceful use of zero sum personal attack ads imported from the US which has left Canadians cynical and disillusioned about the democratic process and faith/trust /confidence in our institutions of governance and those who are elected to them.

"His legacy is a country divided and polarized based along age, region and personal economic standing. Canada is no longer the caring even handed nation it once was. In Harper's world of black or white, there is no room for moderation respect for differences of opinion, both inside and out of his own caucus."

Matthew Coutts, Yahoo Canada News national affairs writer

Highlight: "I'll leave thoughts of his management of the economy to others. What has struck is Harper's apparent focus, and success, in highlighting Canada's history. Whether that is by celebrating our connection to the Royal Family in England, marking the War of 1812 bicentennial or the upcoming 150th anniversary of Confederation. Cynicism about ulterior motives aside, embracing Canada's distinct history is something I respect."

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Low-light: "Under Harper, the government has taken some concerning steps to limit the transparency of government. That ranges from limiting access to journalists and holding closed-door photo ops to forcing staff members to signing non-disclosure contracts. Then there is the muzzling of government scientists and backbencher MPs, and the destruction of archives. I could go on. It begs the question of what Harper is hiding and undermines the public's long-term confidence in government."

Alex Tsakumis, B.C.-based conservative political analyst

Highlight: "The Harper Government's steady hand on the tiller through tumultuous economic times is the reason we are a favoured economy in world markets and the most highly regarded of the G8. This is a very significant accomplishment by our government, considering the Obama Administration's continued failuresand while our chief trading partner."

Low-light: "The Senate scandal is, without question, the Harper Government's low point. I have a very hard time with the actions of some of the Prime Minister's staff, as I do the judgment that brought us the ilk of Messrs Duffy and (in particular) Brazeau, and certainly Ms. Wallin. None of them had any business being rewarded with Senate seats. All three were unqualifiedclearly unqualified."

What do you think are the Harper government's best and worst moments of the past eight years?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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